To while away chilly evenings, some sports developed miniature indoor versions adapted for play on tables, initially in the gentry’s mansions. ‘Whiff-Whaff’ was one such offshoot which came to have a life of its own, away from tennis, thanks to its promotion first as ‘Ping-Pong’ by the legendary games manufacturer John Jaques & Son Ltd. of London, then as ‘Table Tennis‘ by Parker Brothers Inc., who bought the rights in the 1920s and made all ping-pong organisations change their names accordingly.
In fact, Jaques originally trademarked the name ‘Gossima’ in 1891 for his table-top game with foot-high net, two (or four) parchment-covered racquets and a cork ball which bounced unevenly. The original patent filed in 1890 by Yorkshireman David Foster (1848-1928) showed tables with nets and ledges on all sides to keep the ball in. It also stated that “Gentlemen may remove jackets and bow ties to play and ladies are advised not to wear bustles”.
Modern-day manners and materials have transformed the game into an Olympic sport where speed of reaction is key. British players of note include Chester Barnes (1947-2021), Desmond Douglas (1955-) and Andrew Baggaley (1983-) but it is the Chinese who have dominated the medal tables.
And the very first video game was….?
(Top image: Marc at Flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)